On Friday evening, June 5, a public forum was held on "Food Sovereignty: An Open Discussion of Food, Ecology, and Farming." The meeting was initiated by the Venezuela We Are With You Coalition as one of its series of forums on 21st Century Socialism. It was supported by Toronto Bolivia Solidarity and the Latin American Solidarity Network. This effort was to build a bridge between food activists and Latin American solidarity movements. We thank Pance Stojkovski for making the meeting available at http://vimeo.com/5051342.
Prior to the actual meeting is a dedication of the meeting to Cecilia Rosalia Paiva, a co-founder of Toronto Bolivia Solidarity who recently died in her home country of Peru.
The panel included two prominent figures in organizations working to assure the right to food in Canada and to access locally grown, sustainable, and healthy food: Mustafa Koç of Good Secure Canada and Debbie Field of Foodshare. The chairperson, Mary Jo Nadeau is a leading activist in the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid. She made the connection between the Israeli sanctions on Gaza and the people lacking significant nutrition.Experiences in Bolivia, Cuba, and Venezuela were portrayed by Juan Valencia, a Bolivian agronomist and activist in Toronto Bolivia Solidarity; Jorge Soberon. Cuban Consul General) and John Riddell, Venezuela We Are With You Coalition, respectively.
The panel found a common reference point in La Via Campesina, the peasant International, which originated the concept of food sovereignty. Koç pointed out that this concept, rooted in farmers’ and popular control of the food supply, is much deeper than that of “food security,” which involves only access to food.
Koç and Field spoke of the leading role being played by Latin American countries, and in particular Cuba, in advancing the food sovereignty agenda. Soberon gave a powerful presentation on Cuba’s achievements, including in the ALBA framework – and ALBA’s food program was taken up by other speakers.Some speakers discussed the questionable conflict between the interests of poor people (cheap food) and working farmers (high prices for their products). Field pointed out that the answer is government intervention, including through subsidization of food prices. The Venezuelan experience shows this concept in action.
Several speakers pointed out that the food industry urgently requires a fundamental change in Canadian society, and in fact throughout the world, if humankind is to survive. The concept of social transformation from capitalism to socialism was developed in a very natural way by the panelists and in the discussion by the participants in the audience.
The initial presentations are well worth watching – food for thought.